Discussion Board

Topic: In defense of the word "gotten."

From: Kelly Marsh
Location: Everett, WA
Date: 03/22/2009

Hi Greg. I know you have been taken to task in the past by our friends in the U.K. for your use of the word "gotten." And while I have had similar friendly disputes with Englishmen, I have never before been able to come up with a good reason why the word should exist. Until now.

Just a few minutes ago, I read the following sentence: "Museums have got to be a whole lot more interesting these days." Now, if this had been written by an American, we would immediately know that the author meant "must be" when he said "have got to be..." If he meant "have become," he would have written "have gotten to be..."

But, since the sentence was written by an Englishman, the meaning isn't nearly so obvious. It could either mean "must be," or "have become." And yes, often we can tell what the author probably meant, from the context, but the only way to be absolutely sure would be to ask him. And yes, authors could avoid the problem entirely by writing "must be" or "have become," but this was dialog, and how many characters would talk like that? ("Okay, now he sounds like a toff, but this is the only way I can make his meaning clear without using that Yank abomination 'gotten'.")

And THIS is why the word "gotten" is not only valid, but necessary. And to the naysayers, I will add "SO THERE!" :P
(Just by way of keeping the discussion on an adult level.)

Kelly

Re: In defense of the word

From: Greg Bear
Date: 03/22/2009

Good analysis. Most of these "yank" abominations actually come out of Elizabethan or even Anglo-Saxon roots, far earlier than any snobbish purist attitudes.

Re: In defense of the word

From: Andrew Carpenter
Location: Cauterets, France
Date: 03/22/2009

My only input is this,

An Englishman would never use the word gotten, but even so does it make it less of a word?

For years I used to assume in the days (in Europe) of capital punishment, that one was hung until dead...not so in correct English...one is HANGED by the neck until dead...which somehow makes it seem more macabre!

You say tomato etc...whats in a word

Andrew

Re: In defense of the word

From: Greg Bear
Date: 03/22/2009

No contemporary Englishman, perhaps--but who else was speaking Middle English back in the day? Or have we forgotten our roots, in hopes of ill-gotten gains? Beget, begotten...

Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor, 1,3: "He was gotten in drink." Etc. etc. I rest my case.

Re: In defense of the word

From: Robert
Location: Manchester
Date: 03/26/2009

"An Englishman would never use the word gotten"

Rubbish :)

The word 'gotten' is in common use in England at least in colloquial use. I wouldn't write it in written English but that applies to lots of words.

Re: In defense of the word ..my last word on gotten

From: Andrew Carpenter
Location: Cauterets, France
Date: 03/26/2009

Hi Greg..hi all,

I dont want to sound like a "gotten" freak and I'm most definately not an English snob (either in culture or the written word), but I do want to chuck in some pre rennaisance words which are not in modern day parlence..ie "begat" "begot" and also I believe "begotten" ref the Bible (King James Edition).

I'm sorry if I sounded like an English prig. I didn't mean to..I just wanted to be slightly amusing. I'm afraid my dyslexia doesn't help...but it does excuse my aweful spelling.

Greg do you believe that fingers can paint colours on a querty keyboard? From the age of six or so, I trained myself to regard each key as a colour...example A is crimson, G is verdigris L is violet..otherwise the whole keyboard is a blobby blur (there's English for you)


Best Regards and sorry for offending..I didn't mean to

Andrew

Re: In defense of the word ..my last word on gotten

From: Greg Bear
Date: 03/26/2009

Absolutely no offense taken, Andrew! This has been a delightful and free-ranging discussion. That keyboard/letter color sense is a rare gift--I believe it's sometimes referred to as "synesthesia," and I've never experienced it myself.

Re: In defense of the word

From: patrick
Location:
Date: 03/28/2009

I don't think that's synaesthesia, though. He just developed a recognition system utilising those elements , vs inherently associating colors with letters, which as far as I know would be a very odd kind of synaesthesia.

As for the topic at hand, again, culture is a culprit of many facets. Ultimately, it's as the original poster intoned, a matter of functionality, and hence in a social sense for humans a mental issue.

Re: In defense of the word

From: Kelly Marsh
Location: Everett, WA
Date: 04/07/2009

Actually, if we are to comment on my delivery, I would prefer "declaimed" to "intoned." The latter sounds rather sepulchral, don't you think? :)

Regarding hung/hanged and the rest,there is much precedent. However, my point was that in MODERN English, gotten is valid.

However, by saying this, I suppose I am also defending such actual abominations as "donut."

I used to have a girlfriend who would look up words on the internet, and challenge me to spell them. My sole "cheat" was the ability to ask her from what language they originated. I don't recall ever having been beaten. My current problem with words like "donut" is that they are totally "Americanized," and give no clue as to their origins.

I suppose this is another thing entirely. I've lived long enough to learn that languages evolve. The way I learned to spell things are often no longer correct, at least according to the spell-checkers. And you gotta love the grammar-checkers. :)

I fairly frequently use semicolons. And every time I do, the grammar checker responds with a comment that basically says "Er, you used a semicolon. I'm not sure what that means, and, by the way, I'm pretty sure you don't either, so I think it would probably be better if you stuck to less controversial punctuation."

So, while it is inevitable that the English language evolves, I would really rather it did so more slowly. It's REALLY annoying to be taken to task for having done something properly.

Re: In defense of the word

From: Greg Bear
Date: 04/09/2009

Kurt Vonnegut absolutely abhorred semicolons, making me feel guilty whenever I use one. And after I use it, I often pluck it out in commemoration of Mr. Vonnegut. Now I'm self-conscious about "gotten"! What next--split infinitives? Beginning a sentence with "but"? A writer's worries never end!

Re: In defense of the word

From: patrick
Location:
Date: 04/09/2009

Sepulchral? Hmmm. I'll cogitate on that one (hmhmhmh). In any case, Kelly, some of the 'evolution' of language is, at least in America, IS an abomination. Ten more years, and net speak will be in the goddamn dictionary. Freakin kids...of course, many adults are involved in the proliferation, too. Ack.

Also, like in the case of 'donut', you could ask whether it's colloquial American usage....hmhmhmhmh. But there's no *winning or losing* in such matters. There's only functionality, which is determined by context. And that is where I always reckon from, regardless of others' predilections.

As for using semicolons, I don't worry. I never use grammar or spell checkers, either. Errors be what they may if I miss them.

Re: In defense of the word

From: Andrew
Location: Cauterets, France
Date: 04/14/2009

Greg,
I wish I'd never " gotten" started on this subject...in old English lets say "ballocks" and lets eat drink and be merry...for tomorrow!!!

Peace to all and if you like I'll give you my recipe for chartreuse of quail..(I know you're a gourmand Greg)

Cheers

Andrew

Re: In defense of the word

From: Greg Bear
Date: 04/15/2009

By all means, quail away! Astrid is my expert chef.

Semicolons and Kurt Vonnegut

From: Kelly Marsh
Location: Everett, WA
Date: 05/02/2009

Greg,

The last thing I want to do is make you self-conscious about semicolons, gotten, and split-infinitives. (oh my!)

Greg, and Astrid, the Bears, oh my! (Sorry, popped into my head, and I couldn't resist. I know, like you've never heard THAT one before. However, try growing up as a male with the name Kelly.)

Anyhoo, despite the opinion of the inestimable and revered Mr. Vonnegut, (and I mean that sincerely) I quite like semicolons. They are wonderful vehicles for connecting two independent clauses that are nevertheless linked in concept, and often to me a comma used in the same place looks clumsy and inappropriate, as does splitting the whole thing into two sentences. Whenever I try the latter, it usually makes me feel like Michael Blake. "He woke up. He was thirsty..." Prose for the brain to atrophy by.

By the way, I believe it was in "City of Angels" that it seemed you even shied away from a few commas. Okay, more than a few. I assumed this was intended to take into account the future evolution of the language. Was I correct? I hope so, as the alternative would seem to be that I am an annoying picker of nits.

Kelly





Freakin kids

From: Kelly Marsh
Location: Everett, WA
Date: 05/02/2009

Patrick,

I agree whole-heartedly. However, language, and especially English, as it comprises and constantly adopts terms from so many other languages, seems to evolve the fastest of all.

The problem I have is that with the advent of the internet and other mass media, it is evolving fast enough to make my head swim.

And, the people who keep track of this, namely the editors and publishers of dictionaries seem, these days, to be total wimps about it. They just throw their hands up, and say something to the effect of "If enough idiots are saying, or spelling, it this way, it is by definition correct."

Therefore, for example, it is now officially correct, or at least officially acceptable, to pronounce the "t" in "often."

It used to be that such people held the line, and said things like "Despite the fact that the ignorant and uneducated frequently pronounce the "t" in "often" in an effort to sound more educated than they actually are, it is nevertheless silent in the correct pronunciation." These days, it seems they just wimp out when it comes to such things.

Lately I have noticed a near pandemic of such atrocities as "noone" for "no one," and "loose" for "lose." I have no doubt these will show up in dictionaries as "alternate" spellings in the next couple of years.

Yes, language will, and should, evolve. It just disturbs me that the ignorant and uneducated should have such a hand in it these days. Anyone who has a computer and an internet connection now seems almost compelled to do their part. Are spellings that include numbers, like "gr8" soon going to be "proper"?

I was born in the fifties, and have gradually learned to let go of certain spellings, like "aluminium," and "catalogue." However, I get annoyed when I encounter things like "Omelets, often misspelled Omelettes..." This is NOT a misspelling, any more that "night" is a misspelling in regard to "nite." AND, as I recall, it used to be "mis-spelling."

Okay, rant over. But, anyone who takes exception to this needs to read books a bit more. Older books would be "favourite."

Kelly

P.S. Greg, you will note that I start sentences with words like "And," and "But" quite shamelessly. And, I am frequently guilty of ending sentences with prepositions. The only rules regarding these apparent infractions were made up by the sort of people who pronounce the "t" in "often," or in the case of Englishmen, add "haitches" where they don't belong, like "HI'm sure HI don't know what Hyou're talking about." If you doubt me, ask a well traveled Englishman. :)

K.

Semicolons and Kurt Vonnegut

From: Greg Bear
Date: 05/12/2009

Right you are, Kelly--QUEEN OF ANGELS thew out a lot of punctuation, including commas. I still use semicolons, but only sparingly--in fear of a semicolonoscopy, I suppose!

Freakin kids

From: Greg Bear
Date: 05/12/2009

Ah, language and class snobbery--another long topic!

Re: In defense of the word

From: Andrew Carpenter
Location: France
Date: 06/05/2009

Greg,
I suspect that a semicolonoscopy would be would be helped by a good shot of rohipnol..then you wouldn't care about punctuation..in any event..you wouldn't remember it!

Cheers

Andrew

Respond to this discussion

May we post your correspondence on this site?
Yes
No
IMPORTANT: For form verification, type the following number in the box below: 75




See Also...

Archives: [Oct-Dec 2004] [Jan-June 2005] [July-Dec 2005] [Jan-June 2006] [July 2006] [Aug-Dec 2006] [2007] [2008] [2009] [2010] [2011] [2012] [2013] [2014] [Current] [Search Blog Archives]